You may recall that Gov. Greg Abbott suggested not too long ago that Texas may be “wasting money” if it started spending more on education. The governor has his head in the sand about the needs of school kids, but he isn’t against really wasting taxpayers’ money to keep the “wrong” people from voting.
In a legal effort that began when Abbott was attorney general, the state has spent more than $3.5 million defending Texas’ voter identification law in court, according to a recent Texas Tribune article. This is the law, enacted by the Republican majority in 2011, which requires voters to produce specific forms of photo identification before being allowed to cast election ballots. It is the strictest voter identification law in the country, with severe limits on what kind of photo ID can be used. A federal judge determined that 600,000 Texas voters lack the required photo ID and noted that the cost and difficulty involved in obtaining the documentation needed to get an ID was unconstitutionally burdensome.
But Abbott and other supporters of the law continue the legal fight. They contend the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud, an argument that is a lie. In truth, cases of voters trying to fraudulently impersonate someone else at polling places are virtually non-existent in Texas.
The real reason for the law is to discourage minority, low-income and elderly people from voting. These are the groups of Texans who are least able to obtain the accepted forms of identification and would be most likely to vote for candidates who support more funding for education and other important services. They would be likely to vote against candidates such as Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and many members of the legislative majority, who persist in under-funding state programs, and the voter ID law was passed to keep them from voting.
There are thousands of better, more productive ways to spend that $3.5 million. That much money, for example, would pay for educating 366 Texas kids for one school year, based on Texas’ current per-pupil expenditures.
The $3.5 million figure will grow as Texas officials continue to defend a discriminatory law. It is a wasteful and shameful expenditure of taxpayer dollars.